I now turn the reins over to reader Chris Gregory, for a special Bloomsday post. Enjoy!
June 16th, or, as I like to call it, Bloomsday, the day on which the events of James Joyce’s Ulysses take place, has come and gone once more. I wrote a short post on it the summer I interned at One Story a few years ago. Yet, this Bloomsday more than others, it seems appropriate that we take some time to consider what many scholars consider to be the greatest novel of the 20th century, and perhaps ever. You see, a few days ago, the New York Times reported that Apple had required the creators of “Ulysses Seen,” a graphic novelization of Joyce’s epic, to remove panels from the comic containing a woman’s exposed breasts in order for their app version of the book to be accepted into the Apple app store.
This wasn’t necessarily a case of targeted discrimination on Apple’s part, but rather a result of company policy. Tipping our collective hats to wired.com, Apple CEO, Steve Jobs, has famously been quoted as saying “We do believe we have a moral responsibility to keep porn off the iPhone. Folks who want porn can buy and [sic] Android phone.” Jobs said this in addressing the controversy over Apple banning an app for viewing the work of Pulitzer Prize winning Cartoonist Mark Fiore. Apple has since rescinded Fiore’s rejection, and, before you get angry over the Ulysses ban, they’ve also rescinded their editorial notes to “Ulysses Seen,” according to an update from the Times.
Perhaps Apple realized the irony in censoring a book that was at the center of one of the most important obscenity cases in US legal history. If we’re to believe the novel’s Wikipedia page, in 1921 an issue of The Little Review containing the Nausicaa chapter, which depicts the main character, Leopold Bloom, masturbating, was declared obscene by a US court, resulting in the book being banned from the United States. In 1933, Random House tried to import a copy of the book from the UK and, when the book was seized by customs, contested the seizure. “In United States v. One Book Called Ulysses, U.S. District Judge John M. Woolsey ruled… that the book was not pornographic and therefore could not be obscene.” Some editions of Ulysses today contain a handy dandy copy of this decision for anyone interested.
Now, these two cases are a bit different. The 1933 decision was a confirmation of Ulysses’s protection under the First Amendment. The Apple app store, on the other hand, is a private club of sorts, and any woman who has ever tried to join the country club at Augusta can tell us that private clubs with discriminating membership requirements are also protected under the First Amendment. Furthermore, I don’t want this article to be a castigation of Apple, especially since they’ve made the correct decision in the end by letting the offending panels remain untouched. Rather, I think use this occasion to remember how lucky we are to have books like Ulysses, and maybe even take the time to read just a chapter or two. I’m proud to say that I’ve made it through the entire book, though I’ll admit it was required reading for a college course. I guess the moral of the story, for me at least, is that we should take comfort in this book that has overcome so many obstacles in the past to reach our nightstands. It’s good to know that what is beautiful in our world cannot be suppressed. So don’t worry for Poldy and Molly. They’ll be okay in the end. They always have been.
Author’s Note: I tried to quote as little from these articles as possible because I’d like the reader to actually click on the links and read the different articles. There’s a lot more pertinent information in each article. These people are paid to do good reporting, and I don’t want to undermine their efforts by giving away the best parts while depriving them of the page views.